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Heart Valve Replacement

Lee Health: Cardiology Specialists Helping You Understand Your Heart Valve Treatment Options

Lee Health cardiologists are here to help you understand your treatment options when it comes to heart valve issues, including heart valve repair. Our team of experts are ready to provide you with compassionate care for all your heart valve needs.

What is heart valve replacement?

Based on your symptoms and the overall condition of your heart, your Lee Health cardiologist determines if your heart valve(s) needs to be surgically repaired or replaced.  Valve replacement surgery can eliminate the symptoms and health risks associated with valve disease offering you an improved quality of life.

Traditional Heart Valve Surgery

In heart valve replacement surgery, Lee Health surgeons make an incision in the chest to expose the heart. This procedure requires general anesthesia and the use of the heart lung machine to supply your body with blood while your heart valve is being repaired.

We remove your old valve and sew a new valve into the location of your native valve. There are three types of replacement valves that may be used to replace a diseased valve:

  • Tissue valves or biologic valves are made from animal or human tissue. They may be combined with artificial materials, too. They are more readily available than human heart valves, and like human heart valves, they don't require blood thinners. Tissue valves generally last about 15 years, not as long as mechanical heart valves.
  • Mechanical heart valves are made completely from man-made materials. They are very reliable and last much longer than tissue valves. Mechanical heart valves require that patients be on blood thinners permanently to prevent a clot from forming on the valve.
  • Donor valves are another option for valve replacement.  A donor valve can be expected to last 10 to 20 years. 

Why Get Heart Valve Replacement

In many cases, surgeons can repair heart valves with surgery, but sometimes those valves need to be replaced. When one (or more) valve(s) becomes stenotic (stiff), your heart works harder to pump blood through the valve. Valves can also become narrow and stiff from age or infections such as staph or rheumatic fever. When one or more valves show signs of of valve disease your heart can be damaged.

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Symptoms of Heart Valve Disease

While many patients do not notice any symptoms of heart valve disease, it is possible to have severe heart valve disease without any symptoms. Also, you may have symptoms even when your heart valve disease is not serious.

If your heart valve(s) becomes damaged or diseased, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness during regular activities
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Discomfort in the chest
  • Palpitations or feeling that your heart has missed a beat
  • Swelling in ankles, feet or stomach
  • Sudden and unexplained weight gain
  • Headaches

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Understand the Risks of Heart Valve Replacement

The risks of valve surgery, as with all surgeries, are related to your age and relative health. Here are some of the risks of valve replacement surgery:

  • Bleeding
  • Heart rhythm problems

Less common complications:

  • Heart attack, if a blood clot breaks loose soon after surgery
  • Infection of the chest wound
  • Kidney failure
  • Stroke
  • Reaction to the anesthesia

Technology and Expertise at Lee Health

Lee Health provides the most advanced valve replacement surgeries and treatments using a multidisciplinary approach. Our valve program regularly handles the most complex cases in the region with excellent outcomes.

Our surgeons have extensive experience in minimally-invasive robotic surgery for mitral valve replacement, and the first in the region to perform this valve surgery with robotic assistance. Robotic surgery makes it possible to perform valve surgery through smaller incisions with greater control and accuracy.

A new procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, is providing new hope for patients considered too weak to undergo traditional aortic valve replacement surgery. HealthPark Medical Center became the first hospital in Florida—outside of clinical trials—to offer this procedure to patients who previously had no viable surgical options.

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